puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl How to pronounce puzzle (audio) \
puzzled; puzzling\ ˈpə-​zə-​liŋ How to pronounce puzzle (audio) , ˈpəz-​liŋ \

Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to offer or represent to (someone) a problem difficult to solve or a situation difficult to resolve : challenge mentally also : to exert (oneself, one's mind, etc.) over such a problem or situation they puzzled their wits to find a solution
2 archaic : complicate, entangle
3 : to solve with difficulty or ingenuity puzzle out an answer to a riddle

intransitive verb

1 : to be uncertain as to action or choice
2 : to attempt a solution of a puzzle by guesswork or experiment puzzle over the mystery



Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the state of being puzzled : perplexity
2a : something that puzzles
b : a question, problem, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity

Other Words from puzzle


puzzler \ ˈpə-​zə-​lər How to pronounce puzzle (audio) , ˈpəz-​lər \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for puzzle


puzzle, perplex, bewilder, distract, nonplus, confound, dumbfound mean to baffle and disturb mentally. puzzle implies existence of a problem difficult to solve. the persistent fever puzzled the doctor perplex adds a suggestion of worry and uncertainty especially about making a necessary decision. a behavior that perplexed her friends bewilder stresses a confusion of mind that hampers clear and decisive thinking. a bewildering number of possibilities distract implies agitation or uncertainty induced by conflicting preoccupations or interests. distracted by personal problems nonplus implies a bafflement that makes orderly planning or deciding impossible. the remark left us utterly nonplussed confound implies temporary mental paralysis caused by astonishment or profound abasement. the tragic news confounded us all dumbfound suggests intense but momentary confounding; often the idea of astonishment is so stressed that it becomes a near synonym of astound. was at first too dumbfounded to reply


mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes. mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation. the mystery of the stone monoliths problem applies to a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern. problems created by high technology enigma applies to utterance or behavior that is very difficult to interpret. his suicide remains an enigma riddle suggests an enigma or problem involving paradox or apparent contradiction. the riddle of the reclusive pop star puzzle applies to an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution. the thief's motives were a puzzle for the police

Examples of puzzle in a Sentence

Verb The cause of the accident has puzzled investigators. it is the cause of the disease that puzzles doctors Noun a book of puns, riddles, and puzzles the final fate of the colonists at Roanoke remains a puzzle to this very day
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The week has ended, the weekend has arrived and another Wordle is here to puzzle our brains a bit—though like yesterday’s word, this one isn’t too tough. Erik Kain, Forbes, 14 May 2022 The engagement that Krymov and company seek is for all of us to puzzle out together what urgent role theater can perform at a chaotic moment such as this. Washington Post, 17 Apr. 2022 The translators are stunned when the author undergoes an otherworldly transformation and disappears into the forest, leaving them alone to puzzle out what her new novel means. New York Times, 11 Feb. 2022 The solution, Stuef says, is tied far more to understanding Fenn’s emotions, and to a close examination of the poem itself, than to puzzle-solving skills. Daniel Barbarisi, Outside Online, 7 Dec. 2020 Wordle continues to puzzle millions of us at our breakfast tables and during our daily commutes. Zak Doffman, Forbes, 23 Apr. 2022 In the meantime, theorists will continue to puzzle over anomalies and dream up hypothetical particles that could be responsible for the discrepancies detectors have seen. Daniel Garisto, Scientific American, 27 Apr. 2022 Today, neurologists continue to puzzle over instances of bizarre physical effects of the mind on the body. Joe Didonato, Forbes, 25 Apr. 2022 That said, the actor knows Professor X’s death and reappearance will puzzle fans. Chris Smith, BGR, 7 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun If scientists can solve the remaining puzzle pieces behind these technologies, both nuclear fission and fusion are poised to have a big impact on the world’s energy reserves and green energy efforts in the coming decades. Sarah Wells, Popular Mechanics, 22 July 2022 Clean technology and smart technology are the missing puzzle pieces in providing reliable, low-cost connectivity. Miriam Tuerk, Forbes, 16 June 2022 Researchers compare the surprising find to coming across missing puzzle pieces. Michael Hill, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 June 2022 Researchers compare the surprising find to coming across missing puzzle pieces. Michael Hill, BostonGlobe.com, 14 June 2022 Around a bend, Pilgrim came into view, towering over a fence beside the road: 23 feet of legs and neck covered in brown puzzle pieces, somehow both muscular and gangly. Rowan Moore Gerety, The Atlantic, 18 May 2022 Once all the puzzle pieces (including a modern-day epilogue) are in place, the result is an adventure story of satisfying unity, with enough surprises to still qualify as a mystery. Tom Nolan, WSJ, 13 May 2022 Consciousness presents a particularly knotty philosophical puzzle, and there is no easy consensus on how to define it, let alone prove its presence. Camille Bromley, The Atlantic, 18 July 2022 Prominent Mormon folk artist and puzzle-maker Eric Dowdle is also enlisted in the effort. Mark Eddington, The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'puzzle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of puzzle


1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for puzzle


origin unknown

Learn More About puzzle

Dictionary Entries Near puzzle



puzzle box

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Last Updated

8 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Puzzle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puzzle. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for puzzle


puz·​zle | \ ˈpə-zəl How to pronounce puzzle (audio) \
puzzled; puzzling

Kids Definition of puzzle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : confuse sense 1, perplex The mysterious phone call puzzles me.
2 : to solve by thought or by clever guessing She tried to puzzle out the crime.



Kids Definition of puzzle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a question, problem, or device intended to test skill or cleverness
3 : something that perplexes : mystery

More from Merriam-Webster on puzzle

Nglish: Translation of puzzle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of puzzle for Arabic Speakers


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